Penn State recruiting: Jayson Oweh previews commitment announcement; Lions’ target Devyn Ford to trim list
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Penn State target Jayson Oweh previews commitment announcement
A fast-moving recruiting process reaches the finish line Thursday night for Jayson Oweh. A top-10 defensive end prospect, he will announce his college choice during the Under Armour All-America Game, which kicks off in Orlando, Fla., at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Oweh, who landed his first of more than 30 scholarship offers less than a year ago, admits the moment is weighing heavily on him during preparation for this national showcase matchup.
“I probably won’t sleep [Wednesday night], to be honest,” Oweh said. “Until I say where I’m going.”
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.) standout slashed his options to Ohio State and Penn State after the 2017 season. Both programs extended offers last spring, when Oweh’s recruitment swiftly expanded.
Notable universities continued to enter the mix during recent months, including Alabama, Florida, Miami and Nebraska, but the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions had simply pulled ahead by too large a gap by then. From a Big Ten perspective, that edge in familiarity played a pivotal role when he compared Ohio State and Penn State to their shared conference foe.
Michigan made a late push and seemingly supplanted Notre Dame as his third option. Still, not even a November official visit allowed the Wolverines to make up enough ground.
“To be honest, Michigan was too late,” Oweh said. “If it was earlier, they probably would’ve definitely been [a finalist] because they’re everything my parents wanted and what I wanted. But, at that point, it was too late.”
And so, we’re left with Ohio State vs. Penn State. It’s a common theme on the 2018 recruiting trail, as the same matchup may ultimately define James Franklin’s pursuit of fellow blue-chip defensive end Tyreke Smith and top-10 tackle prospect Rasheed Walker.
RELATED: 2018 Penn State recruiting big board
Trust in one thing leading into the Thursday night declaration: Oweh is well-versed in both universities.
“I’m indecisive, so I would go to [a school], do a lot of homework, ask them a lot of questions, they would tell me what I wanted to hear, then I’d go back on my laptop and search everything they told me,” he said.
He visited State College five times in 2017, while traveling to Columbus on three occasions. Both coaching staffs attended Blair Academy basketball games in December.
Oweh has always prioritized two facets in his search for the right fit: an engineering program that can set him up for post-football success and a defensive line coach capable of maximizing untapped talent.
He is unwavering in the respect shown toward Larry Johnson and Sean Spencer, who lead the defensive fronts at Ohio State and Penn State, respectively. True rapport in each case contributed to a difficult decision.
Oweh used official visits to both schools, which enabled him to compare and contrast environments.
“Penn State was different because they won,” he said. “When I went to Ohio State, they didn’t win, so everything was kind of gloomy. But it was still great. I saw the business aspect of everything, and it really helped me understand what they can do for your future.”
This week in Orlando, Oweh has worked on the field alongside four members of the Buckeyes class and four future Nittany Lions. Plenty of peer recruiting tactics have been applied, including some words of advice from top-10 defensive tackle PJ Mustipher, who signed with Penn State on Dec. 20.
“He’s unguardable, I’m unguardable, so I don’t know what [the offense] would do,” Oweh said when asked about the potential of paring with Mustipher in Happy Valley.
Franklin emphatically stated Penn State was still in search of a defensive end during his early signing period media session. Though he was addressing a room of reporters, it sure felt like that message was meant to reach New Jersey.
Oweh collected 13 sacks in fewer than five full games this season. This dominance provided further evidence of his growth in a sport he didn’t join until 2016.
“His upside is just tremendous,” Blair Academy coach Jim Saylor said. “He’s in a program where we get 10 hours of practice per week, and he has to practice offense and defense. When he gets to a college program and has three hours each day just to focus on defensive end, it’s going to be special. He’s like a flower that hasn’t even bloomed yet.”
If Penn State is the choice, Oweh may not wait long for a chance to shine.
Micah Parsons, a 5-star recruit viewed as America’s premier pass rusher, will begin his college career at middle linebacker when he arrives on campus next week. That’s encouraging for Oweh, who would see less of a crowd at his position and count on Parsons to create opportunities in the years ahead.
“Micah is a freak. … he’s so versatile he can play wherever he wants to,” he said. “It’s good for me too, because obviously it would give me more reps.”
As the clock ticks down toward his highly anticipated announcement, Oweh is confident he’s down to the best opportunities available.
“It’s just little things,” he said. “When you visit [Ohio State and Penn State], they make it a priority to visit the athletic and academic directors, set up engineering meetings. A lot of schools didn’t do that. It was obviously those two.”
Will Nittany Lions land on list of favorites for elite 2019 RB Devyn Ford?
Looking ahead toward the 2019 recruiting cycle, Penn State is again securely involved with a coveted running back recruit from Virginia. The state that produced eventual Nittany Lions rushers Evan Royster and Tony Hunt, and 5-star 2018 signee Ricky Slade, has been beneficial for the offensive backfield in Happy Valley.
Devyn Ford, a junior at North Stafford High School, is the latest target. The 5-11, 185-pound playmaker received a Nittany Lions offer during his sophomore year and played alongside Penn State tackle signee Nana Asiedu during his prep career.
Ford, who claims dozens of college offers, is ready to make things simpler. He will soon shift focus solely to six universities:
Considered a top-five prospect at his position, other offers include Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. Ford rushed for 2,058 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2017, solidifying his status as an elite recruit.
At this point it would be a surprise if Penn State doesn’t make this initial cut and sustain as a long-term contender for his commitment.
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